You can dehydrate fennel bulbs in a food dehydrator or oven. Dry fennel seeds, flowers, and fronds in the air as they are more sensitive to heat. Store dehydrated fennel and fennel seeds in airtight containers in a cool, dry place.
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How to Dry Fennel in a Food Dehydrator
It is easy to dry fennel bulbs and stalks in a food dehydrator:
- Wash the bulbs and stalks under cool running water.
- Dab them with paper towels to remove excess cold water.
- Blanch the bulbs and stalks to preserve flavor, color, and texture. To blanch, bring water to a boil in a pot and dip the stalks and bulbs in the water for 90 seconds. Remove them and place them in ice water to prevent further cooking.
- Remove the fennel from the ice water. Use paper towels to blot the bulbs and stalks to remove excess ice water.
- Cut the stalks and bulbs into small pieces to reduce drying time.
- Layer the cut pieces on dehydrating trays in a single layer, ensuring pieces don’t overlap, and load them into the dehydrator.
- Dry the fennel pieces at 95°F to 115° for 2-4 hours or until they become brittle.
- Once brittle, allow the dried fennel pieces to cool to room temperature before conditioning and storing them in airtight containers in a cool, dry place.
How to Dry Fennel in the Oven
Here’s how to dry fennel in an oven:
- Prepare the fennel pieces by washing them in cool water and dabbing off the excess water.
- Blanch the fennel parts by dipping them in boiling water for 30-120 seconds, then shock them in ice water.
- Preheat the oven to the lowest temperature setting.
- Cut the parts of the fennel you wish to dehydrate into small pieces using a sharp knife.
- Spread the slices onto a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Dehydrate the fennel pieces at the lowest oven temperature for 3-4 hours. After this time, turn off the heat and leave the fennel overnight in the oven to finish drying.
- Store the dried fennel in sealable plastic bags or glass containers for up to three months in a cool, dry, dark place.
How to Air Dry Fennel
The best way to dehydrate fennel flowers and leaves is to air dry them. Blanching isn’t necessary because they can easily lose flavor and aroma.
- Wash the stalk-free fennel leaves or fronds and flowers in cool running water.
- Blot them dry using paper towels.
- Divide the leaves and flowers into bunches, each with 5-10 pieces.
- Tie the end of each bunch or cluster with a string.
- Hang the clusters upside down in a dry, well-ventilated place to dry for 2-4 weeks. Ensure they hang freely without touching each other or the walls.
- Once thoroughly dried, bring down the leaves and flowers and place them in airtight containers.
What is the Best Way to Preserve Fennel?
The best way to preserve fennel is to freeze it for 6-8 months. Cold temperatures freeze the water in the plant cells, reducing the risk of spoilage through the loss of flavor and aroma. Fresh fennel is delicate, and freezing extends its shelf life in the fridge from 10 days or less to several months.
Always blanch fennel bulbs before freezing them. Blanching helps retain their flavor, color, and texture.
How to Dehydrate Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds (fruits of the fennel plant) can be dried and preserved for several years in airtight and watertight glass jars when stored in a cool, dry, and dark place.
Follow the steps below to air-dry fennel seeds:
- Spread the umbels (seed heads) evenly in a single layer on a drying screen.
- Place the loaded drying screen in a warm, well-ventilated place and dry the seeds at room temperature for 2-4 days.
How to Rehydrate Fennel
While fennel seeds do not need to be rehydrated, other parts of the plant require rehydrating, including the fennel leaves. Dried fennel pieces can be rehydrated while cooking if used in recipes with hot liquids, such as stews and soups, or by placing them in boiling water for 5-10 minutes.
What is the Difference Between Fennel and Anise?
While anise and fennel share similarities because they come from the same family, they differ in some ways. They have the same sweet licorice flavor, but anise is slightly sweeter and has a stronger anise flavor. Fennel has a flavor profile with hints of mint and anise.
Fennel is usually used as a vegetable in salads and vegetable dishes, and its seeds are used as a spice. Anise seeds are solely used as a spice, especially in baked goods.
How Long Does Dried Fennel Last?
Properly stored dried fennel fronds, stalks, and bulbs have a shelf of up to three months at room temperature and up to six months if frozen.
Dried fennel seeds remain viable for several years when stored properly.
How Do You Store Dried Fennel?
The best way to store dried fennel for a longer shelf life is to keep it in the freezer in watertight and airtight containers like glass jars.
Store dried fennel seeds at room temperature in airtight containers in a cool, dry, and dark place.